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Kemper is No Keeper

June 10, 2016

Kemper is the third attempt at building a power plant that gasifies coal, burns the combustible gasses, such as hydrogen in a gas turbine, and captures CO2 for sequestration underground, in this case for enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

Known as an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plant, there have been three built in the U.S., each more expensive than its predecessor.

The first was in Tampa, Florida, in 1996, where Tampa Electric decided not to build a second based on its experience with the initial unit.

The second was built-in Edwardsport, Indiana, at a cost of $6,000 per KW, about the same cost as a nuclear power plant. This plant was not built with carbon capture capability.

The third, and most costly at around $11,000 per KW, though it’s not yet finished, is in Kemper, Mississippi. The cost includes the mining operation of lignite coal that will be used to provide coal for the plant, so it’s not an exact dollar for dollar comparison with the Edwardsport plant.

Kemper was originally to cost $2.2 billion, and is now projected to cost $6.66 billion.

Photo of Kemper Power Plant, courtesy of Mississippi Power Company

Photo of Kemper Power Plant, courtesy of Mississippi Power Company

Based on the very high cost of the previous IGCC plants, at Tampa and Edwardsport, one must wonder why the Kemper plant was built.

Part of the motivation was provided by the coal industry with its claim that IGCC power plants represented “clean coal.” Part of the motivation came from this administration, with $407 million in grants from DOE, plus tax credits, to demonstrate carbon capture technology.

Southern Company, the owner, through its subsidiary Mississippi Power Co., has paid back $368 million in tax credits, due to missing originally scheduled completion dates.

What happens to the grants has not yet been determined.

The motivation for building IGCC power plants was to eliminate CO2 emissions from the generation of electricity, based on the belief that CO2 emissions are causing global warming and climate change.

The original FutureGen project, proposed by President Bush, was also to be an IGCC power plant with carbon capture and sequestration, but was abandoned because of its high cost.

A natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plant only costs $1,100 per KW, while an ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant only costs $2,800 per KW. Both are far less costly than an IGCC power plant. And, both generate electricity at less cost than any wind or solar facility.

One can only hope that no more IGCC plants will be built.

They are hugely expensive, and in the final analysis, it’s not likely that CO2 can be sequestered underground for thousands of years.

The experience at Hutchison, Kansas in 2011, is a good example of how a supposedly secure underground storage site leaked natural gas through unknown salt wells and piping, causing an explosion that killed two people.

Then there were the gas leaks in California from underground storage. Old well shafts are still leaking.

Is there any reason to believe that CO2 underground storage won’t also leak?

IGCC power plants are a failure.

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Nothing to Fear, Chapter 12, explains why carbon capture and sequestration will not work.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon:

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

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